Saturday, August 29, 2015

Bringing trauma healing to DR Congo

Teen-agers collecting firewood in Sud Kivu Province, DRC
 In 2011, an estimated 1100 women and girls were being raped every day in DRC, primarily by militia groups. Now four years later, the militias are mostly demobilized, but rape continues to be an epidemic.

Today women and girls are being sexually attacked by teachers, neighbors, police, and members of their own family. Domestic abuse is rampant, and unemployed men target young girls going to collect firewood and working in the fields. There is no fear of punishment, so no woman or girl is safe in DRC.

Charitable organizations provide medical care for a fraction of the women: doctors at Panzi Hospital believe for every woman they treat, thirty go without medical care. Psychological care is almost non-existent in Congo.

“Widows” -- women shunned by their husbands and community in DR Congo
Can you imagine being staked to the ground and brutally gang-raped while your husband, children, and community watch? Raped so viciously you need surgery to repair the wounds. Then shunned by your husband and sent from the community--the only world you’ve ever known--without means of support and small children in tow?

War victims work hard to rebuild their lives in DR Congo

I know these women personally. They filled my vocational center in Bukavu: Justine, who was forced to watch her husband be buried alive, then raped repeatedly and left for dead; Terese, who spent 22 months in hospital, her feet in stirrups hoping to repair the damage that never healed; and Angelique, who listened to the screams of her sister being burned alive while she was raped. This is hard stuff to hear, unimaginable to bear. 

In 2010, Gunilla Hamne and I taught 25 rape survivors like the women described above to be trauma healers using TTT, the Trauma Tapping Technique. They underwent three months training and an exam; all passed and became Certified Trauma Healers

The women loved the tapping technique: They eagerly practiced it on each other, then took it home to their children and out into the community to help others who were suffering. One woman said it felt "like fresh air moving through my body;" others said it made their mind clearer and easier to make decisions. Hortense, a woman who had lost 4 of her 5 children, changed from being hostile and argumentative to being kind and willing to help others in the center. 

Overall, the tapping seemed to lift the despair these women felt and allowed them to be hopeful about the future. Being trauma healers also gave them a meaningful place in the community; once again they were valuable contributors to everyone's well being instead of unwelcome victims. 

TTT Certified Trauma Healers, DR Congo

The psychological wounds these women carry are far worse than the physical torture they endured. The loss is beyond our comprehension, yet the Congolese women I've known have huge recuperative powers. Given healing skills and a supportive environment, they are able to regenerate their aliveness, and they are willing to pass that healthy enthusiasm on to others: Making that happen on a larger scale is my vision for the Congo Trauma Healing Project. 

Please help us help these women recover emotionally from the terrible wounds they suffer. One rape victim's dream is to live a life free of the trauma of her rape and to be able to feed and clothe my children. Working together, we can make that happen.

Show these women that others are sympathetic to their suffering. You have no idea how much it means to them to know that others care what happens to them and their children. 

With love and appreciation,

Victoria Bentley, PsyD
Executive Director - Empower Congo Women

                                          PLEASE DONATE NOW

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Congo Trauma Therapy Project

Congo is the most dangerous place on earth for women and children

Dear Friends, 

Welcome to helping families heal and rebuild their lives in DR Congo! I’m excited about returning to Congo next month and excited as well to tell you what we're planning there. Working with Amani Matabaro of ABFEK Congo, we're going to set up a trauma healing center in Mumosho, the war-torn part of eastern Congo where most of Empower Congo Women projects have taken place.

As you may remember from prior blogs, trauma healing is what originally drew me to Congo in 2008. And although ECW has accomplished many wonderful things since then, the Congo Trauma Healing Project has never come to fruition. 

But it is now! This September, we intend to establish a healing center where anyone who is traumatized can get the help they need-- rape survivors, victims of abuse, families, returning child soldiers, orphaned children, and teen-age mothers.

There is so much need in Congo—just about everyone is traumatized, so this trauma center will be a godsend.

Thousands of traumatized Congolese women and girls need help.

I plan to teach peer counselors a series of effective, simple-to-learn techniques that enable people to manage trauma symptoms. The counselors will be salaried and expected to hold weekly meetings where local folk can learn and practice the healing techniques so they can help themselves. We're going to rent a quiet space where people can come together in peace and safety.

The trauma healing protocol I will be teaching is a combination of breath work, body awareness, tapping (TTT), visualization, and some cognitive therapy.The therapeutic sequence has been designed to be compatible with Congolese culture.

This pilot project is intended to run for one year. At the end of that time, we will apply for a Rotary Global Grant to expand the reach of trauma healing in Congo. Stay tuned for the next email where you will learn the history behind this project and why we know it will succeed. 

Thanks for being part of the continuing efforts to make DRCongo a safer, kinder place for women and children.

With love and appreciation,

Victoria Bentley, PsyD.
Executive Director, Empower Congo Women

Copyright © 2015 Victoria Bentley. All rights reserved (applies to writing and photography)
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